March 2012

Until the end of the 19th Century, the faerie and human realms overlapped quite considerably. The soft places, where the skilled can walk two paths at once, were once common. Clearings in the woods, hilltop earthworks, faerie rings and even the bottoms of gardens hid gateways to the Summer Lands through which faeries came and went quite freely. Such effortless access meant that human children could be easily replaced with faerie changelings and human adults lured or tricked into crossing the border into Faerie, mostly never to return. (Those who did came back… changed. Just look at Byron.)

But in 1867, Lucien B. Smith of Kent, Ohio in America was granted a patent on his invention of barbed wire and, in helping farmers around the world parcel up their land, so Smith cut the faeries off from the human world. As the barbed wire went up across the country, the faeries found their way blocked. The glades where they would slip from world to world were now surrounded by strands of galvanised steel that formed a barrier as impenetrable as a curtain of fire. As every child knows, faeries cannot abide the touch of iron and what is steel but iron with bits in?

The invention of the barbed wire fence did more to divide humans from faeries than any other single invention in history. And because we barely knew the faeries were there, they fell into myth and legend, their visits to our world put down as hoaxes or the tales of the over-imaginative, stories told to children to make them behave.

And over the last century or so, of course, us humans have become less and less likely to go a-wandering, less likely to stumble into those few remaining soft places and there lose our way. We might go walking up that hill, but never cross the barbed wire fence that keeps us out of the ancient tree-ringed circle at the top. We might wander through the woods but never leave the path to sit and daydream in that sun-dappled dell.

There are a few places where the Summer Lands still intrude upon our world. Little enclaves of the faeries’ world overlain on our own, where the link betwixt is strong enough to survive the encroachment of modern living. Places where the faeries are bounded on our side by iron, but where the the path to their lands can still be walked by those who know how.

We must be careful in these soft places. The faeries are quite capable of walking amongst us entirely unseen. A simple glamour can make us think that they are human or, indeed, that they aren’t there at all. And in the crush of city life, do we pay attention to the tall, beautiful lady in the park, sitting on the oak bench and watching our comings and goings? And when she offers us a buttercup, we should stay the hand that wants so much to betray us by automatically accepting. With faeries, a gift is never just a gift.

Read a sample chapter.

Add to Cart from Suw’s bookstore for £2.49, or get it for just 99p if you join my mailing list.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

This awesome video by Double Fine Adventures, who have just crossed the $3 million mark on their Kickstarter project with just 10 hours to go, provides some useful advice for anyone outside the US who doesn’t have a credit card but still wants to support a project. There are more details on their forum.

Supporting Kickstarter projects requires an Amazon Payments account. For some non-USAians, this can be problematic either because you don’t have a credit card or because bugs in the Amazon Payments system cause problems. For the latter, see if this fix from Jungle Disk works. If you do have problem backing Queen of the May, please let me know!

And, finally, Queen of the May is nearly up to 20 percent funded now, so please do pop over and pledge something and get us heading towards the all important 30 percent mark. Once I hit 30 percent, the project then becomes 90 percent likely to fund, so these early pledges are really, really important!

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

For ages now I’ve been meaning to try the methyl cellulose (wallpaper paste) method of gluing backing paper on to fabric to make it suitable for bookbinding. Most fabric can’t be used un-backed because it’s too slippery to work easily with, it frays, and the glue will almost certainly bleed through thinner fabrics and ruin them. The way to deal with this is to adhere paper to the back of the fabric to provide a layer of protection between the fabric and the paste.

When I want to visit the Wyvern Bindery, they mentioned that they back fabrics using a heat set tissue, but so far I’ve been unable to find that online, and I’m not sure if it would work with a normal household iron anyway. I’ve experimented with backing paper using bookbinding paste, but it doesn’t adhere evenly leaving little bubbles of unglued fabric and the bond, even when dry, is weak so you can just tear the paper off.

For Argleton, I used archival spray mount, which is more even, doesn’t leech through if you don’t overdo it, and seems to adhere very well. Because it’s archival, it shouldn’t discolour the fabric. However, it does require a ventilated space and you get through a lot of waste paper.

So I thought I’d try this method, using methyl cellulose paste:

Having just tried it, I can promise you that it’s not as easy as he makes it look! I’ve learnt a few things through this morning’s experiment, so will share those points here as much for my own reference as anyone else’s!

1. He says to mix the methyl cellulose (MC) in a 1 part MC to 8 parts water ratio and let it sit for 20 minutes. Next time I will try 1:7 because it was very sloppy and wet, even after waiting for 20 minutes to let it all congeal.

2. MC goes hella lumpy if you’re not careful. Next time I will add the MC to the water, not the other way round.

3. I need a much higher quality paddle to apply the MC with.

4. A rolling pin wrapped in cling does an ok job, but I really need a proper rubber roller.

5. I used two thin Japanese papers around the 40 – 50gsm (annoyingly I’ve lost the note where I wrote down what they were), but they were both far too thin. The MC just soaked right through them and I very much doubt that they would provide much protection from paste.

6. The MC will pick up pigment from non-colourfast fabrics, so if you’re reusing the same batch to do multiple pieces of fabric, start with the lightest colours first.

7. It takes longer than a few hours to dry!

As for the results, the silk I backed has come out well with no marks despite the fact that I was worried the MC has soaked right through. I’ll see how it works up into a cover when pasted. However, it has no bubbles and has bonded fairly well, although if I really wanted to, I could probably rip the two layers apart.

The synthetic fabric I tried hasn’t bonded properly with the paper along one edge, so that’s going to have to be dealt with before I make it up into a cover. I suspect I didn’t use enough MC because I was worried it would ruin the fabric. Next time, I will use more. But other than that, it’s bonded without any bubbles or other problems. It has, however, curled horrendously which is quite annoying. Not sure if this is down to the fabric or the paper. More tests required!

I’ll update this post with photos soon!


{ Comments on this entry are closed }

At last, Queen of the May is up on Kickstarter and ready your support! We have 31 days to raise $10,000, and already have $1071 pledged. Even if you choose the lowest support level, which is $3, please do consider taking part as every little helps!

You can also help immensely by telling your friends about it. No matter how focused your own personal network, every mention of the project helps. Here are a few things you can do:

Use your social networks
Send a Tweet, update your Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn statuses, or leave a message on any other social network you use. Kickstarter provide a Tweet button that allows you to log in to Twitter and send a pre-written Tweet which says:

Queen of the May by Suw Charman-Anderson — Kickstarter via @kickstarter

If you think that’s a bit boring, you can always try:

I’m supporting @Suw’s Queen of the May on @kickstarter and you should too! (please RT!)

Or, of course, you can write whatever you like, just remember the URL:

Kickstarter also has a Facebook Like button, which you can use to post to your Facebook timeline, but again, an original, personalised message will be more interesting to your friends. 

Write a blog post
If you want to write a blog post about the project, you can quote any of the stuff that I’ve written on the Kickstarter page or here to be part of your post. You can also embed the video if you like. The code is:

<iframe frameborder=”0″ height=”360px” src=”” width=”480px”></iframe>

If you want to ask me specific questions or do an interview, please feel free to email me.

Tell your friends
If you have friends that you think might enjoy Queen of the May, why not just send them a quick email to tell them about it? Equally, if you’re on any mailing lists, forums etc. and feel like they might like to know about it, please do let them know. 

Share the link
If you’re a member of social sharing sites like Delicious, Pinterest, Metafilter, StumbleUpon etc. please do share a link to the Kickstarter project page. The biggest challenge for any crowdfunded project is to reach enough people and social sharing sites can be important sources of new supporters.

Every little really does help
It’s tempting to think that you have to famous to have an effect, but that’s not true and there’s evidence to prove it! Buzzfeed’s Jack Krawczyk and StumbleUpon’s Jon Steinberg recently collaborated on a project to analyse how links were shared across their networks. They said:

Our data show that online sharing, even at viral scale, takes place through many small groups, not via the single status post or tweet of a few influencers. While influential people may be able to reach a wide audience, their impact is short-lived. Content goes viral when it spreads beyond a particular sphere of influence and spreads across the social web via ordinarily people sharing with their friends.

[…] Even the largest stories on Facebook are the product of lots of intimate sharing — not one person sharing and hundreds of thousands of people clicking.

In short, lots of people sharing the link with just a few good friends is at the heart of what makes a project like this succeed, however counter-intuitive that might seem. I’ll write more about this in due course.

In the meantime, if you like the look of Queen of the May, do keep an eye out for updates from me on Twitter, as well as here on the blog and on Kickstarter. And here, for your delectation is the pitch video. Enjoy!



{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Notebooks galore

by Suw on March 2, 2012

I’ve been spending some time making notebooks recently and have finally got round to taking some photos of them.









I’ve been using Chiyogami paper, block-printed Japanese paper that is very high quality indeed. It’s not cheap, but it’s gorgeous to work with. Because the paper fibres are randomly distributed, not aligned in parallel like most Western papers, the sheet won’t curl when it is pasted up.

The final photo above is a quarter-bound notebook, with the spine bound in bookcloth, in this case water-resistant bookcloth. Next week I’m going to pop into Falkiners whilst I’m in London to get some more colours as at the moment I only have dark blue and white, and I’m not a fan of the white as it tends to get dirty quickly and is a bit too see-through for my liking. Working the quarter-bound style like this does mean that you get to save a little on the expensive Chiyogami paper as you use less of it, and you can also bind in full bookcloth too, so I’m definitely going to invest in some more colours.

Five of these notebooks go to the winner of the Argleton geogame. The others I may put on Folksy. I have some more bookblocks to bind, which I’ll be doing as soon as I have a bit more spare time, and plenty of paper still to fold and sew!

I did actually buy a couple of reams of good A3 paper, but annoyingly discovered that the grain of the paper ran parallel to the short edge, instead of the long edge as I had hoped for. You usually fold parallel to the grain, which is fine if you’re doing an A6 book, because you’re cutting an A4 sheet in half, then folding it parallel to the grain. But for A5 that means folding an A4 sheet perpendicular to the grain, which is frowned upon.

Because the A3 paper I got is shortgrain instead of longgrain, that means that if I cut it to A4 size and fold, I’m still folding perpendicular to the grain. Most annoying! If I want to, I can trim it down to size so that the grain is going in the right direction, but that means weirdly shaped offcuts that aren’t massively useful for bookbinding. Meh. My search for cheap but decent paper continues.

Here’s a slideshow of all my notebook photos so far:


{ Comments on this entry are closed }

This is Part 4 in my series of blog posts looking at the lessons I learnt doing a Kickstarter project. See also Part 1: Don’t Go Off Half-CockedPart 2: Rewards, Part 3: Budgeting.

Whilst there is, for me at least, some pleasure to be derived from working out reward levels and toying with Excel spreadsheets in working out my budget, the idea of promoting my own project makes my blood run cold. I never have been one of the world’s natural bigmouths, and in all honesty, I dread the promotional work i’m going to have to do for Queen of the May.

I would love it if the world automatically rewarded hard work and quality, but it doesn’t. You have to get out there and tell the world that you’ve done something worth looking at. Here are few thoughts about promoting your Kickstarter project.

1. You have to do your own promo
Much as it would be lovely to just put stuff up on Kickstarter and let the community organically find you, that is just not how it works. There are lots and lots of projects on Kickstarter and, whilst a few people might trawl through the site looking for interesting stuff to back, you can’t assume that will result in enough people to fund your project.

You have to have a plan to promote your project and be willing to go outside of the Kickstarter community to do so. If you simply put up a project and cross your fingers, you will almost certainly fail.

2. Build your community before you crowdfund
By the time you’re ready to launch your project, it’s too late to build a fanbase around your work. You have to start collecting fans early. Whatever tools you favour, start now, because it takes a long time to build up a following and when your project starts you simply don’t have that time spare. Even social tools like Twitter and Facebook, often erroneously billed as a silver bullet, are not instantaneous and it takes time to connect with those people who are interested in your work.

3. You need a big, big fanbase
A rule of thumb for direct marketing is that between 0.1% and 1% of people that you contact will be interested in what you’re selling them. My mum teaches exercise and no matter what advertising or marketing we try to increase her class sizes, it comes in at around 1%. That means you should aim to reach about 100 or even 1000 times the number of people you need to fund your project.

So, if I think I need 200 people to fund Queen of the May, I need to reach between 20,000 and 200,000 people to find enough who are actually interested in what I’m proposing. That’s a lot of people.

4. Run an opt-In newsletter
One way to reduce the number of people you need to reach is to run an opt-in newsletter that people choose to receive. The idea is that if people are already interested in you and your work, then they’ll be more likely to act when you tell them about your new project. Giving them the ability to get regular news from you is a good way to keep in touch, but don’t expect everyone on your mailing list to read your emails. It’s common for even opt-in lists to have an open rate of less than 20% so if you have 100 people on your list, only 20 will actually read your emails. But, and it’s a big but, those people will be more likely to back your project than random Joes off the street.

5. Engage with social media
The amazing thing about Twitter is not that it’s an easy way to talk to people but that it’s a network of networks. If I send a tweet, someone in my network can send it on to their network, and someone in their network can send it even further. We’re out of the hub-and-spoke model of a newsletter and into the network-of-networks model of social media. That can really help news of your project spread outside of your immediate circle of friends and into the wider community.

Of course, you have to invest time in social media, whether that’s Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or something else, prior to launch. It does take a long time to build up a Twitter following, for example, so get going, get following and be talkative. I’m not going to write a full-on guide to social media in this post, but just remember to give more than you take.

6. Assess your channels
Do you know how many people you can reach, roughly speaking, through each of your promo channels? How many people follow you on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus? Do you know what level of overlap there is? Spend some time working out how many people you can reach directly, and then ask if it’s enough. If you only have a small network, that might have an impact on what makes a sensible crowdfunding target.

7. Time your announcements
Research has shown that there are four key times in the day when people are most active in email: on arrival at work, just before lunch, just after lunch, and just before they go home. Sending an email at one of these times increases the chances it will be opened and read. Equally, sending a Tweet in the UK morning will mean that Americans don’t see it as they will be asleep at the time.

So think about when you’re sending out emails and Tweets and Facebook updates, and try to make sure that you send at a time when your message is most likely to be received. If you have a blog, pay attention to what time people visit by installing a traffic monitoring package like Statcounter or Google Analytics. My blog seems to peak each day around lunchtime, so that’s a good time to post something new.

8. Co-ordinate across your channels
If you have several places you can promote your project, make sure that you think about how they work together.  If you’re writing blog posts about your project, make sure you post them on Twitter and Facebook, for example. Don’t just link to your crowdfunding page, but to discussion about it.

9. Don’t overdo it
I probably underdo it, but really, seriously, don’t overdo the self-promotion. Nothing puts people off a project more than someone who does nothing else but whitter on about it all the time.

10. Make it easy for people to help
When I’ve been promoting Ada Lovelace Day in the past, I’ve noticed that people really do like it when you give them a pre-written tweet to copy and paste, or write an email that they can forward. People are generally willing to help you get the word out, but the easier you can make it for them the more likely they are to take action.

11. Ask friends, but don’t impose
It’s well worth tapping friends up for help, especially if they have bigger networks than you. But if you do, make sure that you don’t impose on them. Give them a heads-up on what you’re doing and the opportunity to help if they want to, but don’t put them in a position where they feel obliged – it might backfire.

Self-promotion for most people is really hard. It’s well worth thinking ahead about how you’re going to promote stuff in a way that you’re comfortable with, and how you can co-ordinate it to make the most of every bit of activity. Whatever you decide, you can’t escape the fact that a good promotion plan could make or break your project.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }